These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on May 28, 2012 by Nikki Fig

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As many in the Pardes community know, my year at Pardes has been decidedly unique. I originally only intended to stay through Elul, but every month I decided I would stay “for one more month.”

My unwillingness to leave led my family and friends in America to conclude that I must be being “brainwashed”. This term used to frustrate and anger me. I would insist that they “had no idea what they were talking about.” How could a non-denominational yeshiva that considers “non-coercion” one of its most critical tenets possibly be a brainwashing institution? But after months of consideration, I’ve realized that my family is right. I have been brainwashed.

Every day I go to school, all of the preconceptions and assumptions I possessed about Judaism before I came to Pardes are vigorously scrubbed from my brain. For the first time ever I am encouraged to formulate my own ideas about what a text says and on a metaphysical level, what kind of Jewish life I want to lead.

With each class I take, my brain is lathered a little more in a diverse breadth of knowledge, ranging from ancient texts like the Torah, to controversial modern commentaries, such as Judith Plaskow’s “Standing Again at Sinai.” I soak it up like a sponge, knowing that every taste of Jewish insight makes me ravenous for more.

Every Shabbat, my mind is cleansed and purified. From the joyous melodies of Kabbalat Shabbat, to the following hours I spend with my friends eating, drinking and singing the day away, I always take a moment to recognize that my experiences are only possible within the committed, but religiously diverse confines of the Pardes community.

So my family is right. I have been brainwashed. And I can’t wait to rinse and repeat.